Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why I Retreated From Politics

I have written extensively about this in the past. By extensive I mean that I think I posted one or two blogs on the subject.

Several years ago I ran away from politics. Like most things, it didn't happen all of a sudden. It was a slow road, winding it's way through my soul. I was too intense and over the top and uninformed and manipulated in college. I cooled out after those years, but still very much cared.

When I finally walked away, I thought I had a very specific reason. I thought I had more or less made an economic decision: It was no longer worth my time and effort to adopt and maintain well-polished political opinions—who's only purpose, so far as I could tell, was to sound well-informed at parties.

That was many years ago, and I must say that it was one of the better choices I have made in adulthood. Everyone once in awhile, like any addict, I will read a tweet, or hear someone say something unintelligent, and I will feel the tug, the voice inviting me back into the fray. But at the same time I am being beckoned I am also in that moment relieved—I don't have to get hot and bothered anymore if my team isn't winning on any particular issue.

But this morning another piece of the puzzle clicked into place for me: I walked away from politics because I got tired of trying to decide who was right. You see, in this life, I make a reasonable effort to be a non-asshole. If you are an asshole, you don't care as much about being right, as you care about winning the argument. If you're an asshole you don't care about listening to the other person's point of view—you just wait for your turn to speak. If you're an asshole, it's easy to be mean to others, because you only care about the people who are on your team. If you're an asshole you ignore inconvenient truths that would present complications to the way you choose to see the world. If you recognize yourself in any of these don't worry, we're all assholes to some extent. I can only list these characteristics of an asshole because I have demonstrated each one of them somewhere along the way (and I will again).

The problem is, the non-asshole way requires time, empathy, pain, effort. It requires you to examine yourself, to be open to the possibility that you are wrong, to be open to the possibility of changing your mind. It's really hard: you think you are right (naturally), but the other thinks they are right. If you are going to be fair, you can't just dismiss them as wrong, because you wouldn't want them to do that to you. So now you have to research, and you have to be wary of biases, both your own, your own team's, and everyone else's. That takes a lot of effort.

If you're going to put a lot of effort into your life, then you're going to have to limit the things that you pour yourself into.

Politics is a damn fine thing to not pour yourself into.